KS-Maui Cheerleaders Best in State Again; Molina Steps Down
By Rodney S. Yap
In the sport of cheerleading, Kealii Molina’s stamp of authenticity is winning.
Small wonder that Kamehameha Schools Maui would successfully defend its state championship Saturday as part of Molina’s last act as cheer coach for the Warriors.
Kamehameha Maui surpassed last year’s previous best score of 348.75, by producing a near flawless 2 1/2-minute routine that was worthy of a 350.75 mark by the judges.
The Warriors won the medium division, for squads of 11 or fewer members, for the second straight year and have now earned the two highest scores in the 14-year history of the tournament. Kaiser was a distant second with 339.5 and Moanalua third at 338.75.
Perennial champion Radford won its 11th championship, fifth consecutive in the large division (for squads of 12 to 20 members) after claiming sixth straight medium championships from 2005 to 2010. The Rams had 331 points to Waiakea’s 319 and Mililani’s 304.75. Baldwin was fourth at 292.25.
“It was just magic,” Molina said about the Warriors’ performance. “It was just one of those days that you can’t even explain. We had some issues during warmups and . . . we were sort of all over the place, and that made things interesting.”
But once the OC16 cameras and live action of the Zippy’s Cheerleading State Championships got underway, the team’s nerves dissolved under the lights of the Blaisdell Arena on O’ahu.
Molina said the team managed its pre-meet challenges by focusing on executing like they do in practice.
As far as the record-breaking result, the 36-year-old Molina said, “We’ve been hitting the score sheet pretty high in our last couple of meets, so I knew we were in that range and we were able to sore like that.”
Molina and co-coach Ann Saffery were proud of the way the team performed under pressure.
“They just went for it and they were on point today. The goal was to go and do what we do everyday and do the best we can possibly do and leave it all out there.”
Molina said the victory is extra special since he and Saffery have both resigned. He said the school’s Upcountry location is inconvenient and he has his hands full coaching five other teams at his Hawaii All-Star Cheer gym in Kahului.
“I had fun building the program and I’m not saying that I’m totally done with high school coaching. I would love to build another program, but it would have to be someplace closer to home.
This year’s winning 11-member team includes: seniors Acacia Coloma-Mariano, Halia Kekuewa, Jessica Walker, and Rachel Kaulupali; juniors Ashlee Sawai, Chasten Abut, Kawai DeVault and Hannah Patrick; sophomores Kayla Sniffen and Logan Hunter; and freshman Chloe Lawrence.
In addition to winning back-to-back state championships, Molina’s four-year stint at Kamehameha Maui has produced four consecutive Maui Interscholastic League titles. The Warriors also earned the 2014 National Cheerleaders Association National Championship last January in Dallas, Texas. It was at the national competition where Kamehameha Maui upstaged Oahu powerhouse Radford in the Small Advanced Coed Division, 98.68 to 97.53. The Rams were the defending champions in the division.
“My favorite thing to do is to take a team and build it from scratch. . . . I didn’t know it was all going to come together like it has.”
The 1996 St. Anthony graduate moved to the mainland at 17 to continue feeding his growing appetite for cheerleading. He eventually became a club and high school coach in California, particularly with public schools in the San Diego area.
Molina spent 12 years honing his skills as a cheer coach when he decided to return to the Valley Isle in 2010.
“There was just so much potential here. It was all here already and opening up the gym was the avenue for it to grow and explode.”
Molina said his decision to return home was also his way of giving back to the sport.
“My goal was to comeback here and give the kids here the same opportunities the kids on the mainland get. I wish I had this when I was growing up. I could have done much more had I had the opportunity.”
The Hawaii All-Stars is the state’s most decorated cheerleading organization. In four short years, the Hawaii All-Stars have enjoyed 14 National Championships and three National Championship runner-up finishes in 19 major competitions.